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Great news: Best Buy restricts a class of toxic flame retardant chemicals in its Exclusive Brand TVs

Best Buy has announced a major new commitment to safer products: all newly designed models of Best Buy’s Exclusive Brand televisions (such as Insignia) will no longer contain toxic organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) in the display enclosures and stands, starting this year.

As shown in our testing, plastic casings of televisions contain large quantities of this harmful class of flame retardant chemicals. With multiple televisions found in the average American home leaking flame retardants into our indoor air and household dust, TVs are a major source of exposure to toxic flame retardants for our families and pets.

Best Buy’s action will improve the safety and sustainability of televisions the company sells, as many OFRs are linked to cancer, harm to the nervous system, hormone disruption, and other health problems.

Best Buy announced televisions must meet the new OFR restrictions outlined in the EU ecodesign regulation. From now on, all updated Best Buy models will meet these restrictions on the class of organohalogen flame retardants.

This is a big deal, as Best Buy is the second-largest retailer of consumer electronics in North America and the first major North American retailer to restrict OFRs in its private-label televisions. With this move, Best Buy will show it’s possible to make TVs without these toxic chemicals in the display enclosures and stands.

We urge other major retailers like Amazon and television brands such as Samsung and Hisense to join Best Buy in restricting OFRs in plastic television enclosures.

Evaluating the safety of alternatives

Perhaps just as significant, the company is not only restricting a highly hazardous class of chemicals but also ensuring the replacements are verifiably safer. The company has worked with its suppliers to evaluate alternatives utilizing the GreenScreen chemical hazard assessment framework. Importantly, Best Buy’s suppliers have identified a substitute with an improved safety profile. The company has ensured the replacement flame retardants are not in the highest hazard category under GreenScreen, and its substitute meets and exceeds this goal with a flame retardant currently designated under GreenScreen as Benchmark 3 (not ranked high for any hazards). This should serve as a model for other major retailers and brands.

Best Buy’s journey towards safer televisions

Best Buy’s action is a notable win for the Mind the Store campaign, Toxic-Free Future, Clean Water Action, and other NGO partners and consumers across the country. Our Mind the Store campaign has been calling on Best Buy to take action on toxic flame retardant chemicals in televisions for several years.

Best Buy’s journey toward safer televisions began in August 2017, when it launched a chemicals policy that we lauded as a positive step to address toxic chemicals in electronics. In its policy, the company stated, “We seek to reduce the use of chemicals, phase out chemicals of concern and improve the general management of chemicals.”

In the years since, we have continued to call on the company to implement the policy by reducing and eliminating organohalogen flame retardants and other toxic flame retardants in televisions and other electronics. In 2017, we published our first report with Clean Production Action revealing OFRs in televisions at high concentrations in plastic enclosures. In May 2019, we organized a letter to Best Buy from more than 50 consumer and public health organizations calling on the company to act. A few months later, we released a second report that found Best Buy and Amazon were both selling private-label televisions with significant concentrations of OFRs in the plastic. We also sent a letter to Amazon and launched a petition urging Best Buy to eliminate toxic flame retardant chemicals from its products.

We have followed these efforts by engaging Best Buy behind the scenes providing policy recommendations and technical expertise and through the publication of our annual retailer report card.  We have also called attention to new scientific studies published demonstrating the risks organohalogen flame retardants pose to our families.

Today, all that work paid off.

We applaud Best Buy for taking action on this critical public health issue. And we hope Best Buy doesn’t stop there. The company should also restrict OFRs in all brand-name televisions it sells.

Flame retardants being restricted in electronics around the world

Best Buy’s actions come at a time when OFRs are being regulated around the world.

In 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned electronics manufacturers and retailers to “eliminate the use” of halogenated flame retardants in plastic casings. In 2019, the European Union passed a ban on all organohalogen flame retardants in electronics casings that took effect in 2021. Most recently, the state of New York banned them effective December 1, 2024. And this past November, the Washington state Department of Ecology issued a report to the legislature recommending a statewide ban on OFRs in electronic casings, under the state’s Safer Products for Washington law.

Other retailers and brands should join Best Buy in addressing toxic flame retardant chemicals

Best Buy is by no means alone in its responsibility to safeguard consumers, communities, and workers up and down the global electronics supply chain from exposure to toxic flame retardants. Other major retailers like Amazon and Walmart, as well as the largest manufacturers of televisions such as Samsung and Hisense, must move swiftly to take action on toxic flame retardants in televisions.

In spring 2020, we sent letters to a dozen major television brands, such as Hisense, LG, Samsung, and SONY, urging them to restrict toxic flame retardant chemicals in televisions. For example, see our letter to Samsung.

And some have meaningfully responded. SONY shared that all Sony television enclosures that are currently manufactured, sold, or distributed within North America do not contain intentionally added OFRs. LG stated it is also working to phase out OFRs starting in 2021 for Europe and beginning to consider a phase-out for the U.S.

Best Buy has now set a high bar by not only eliminating OFRs but making sure that the replacements are safer. Meanwhile, others like Samsung and Hisense have still not responded to our calls for action. Will they join Best Buy in making safer televisions, free of harmful flame retardants?